Our History: A Step Back In Time

“After a hearty supper we waited until it was thoroughly dark and then started to the crater. The first glance in that direction revealed a scene of wild beauty. There was a heavy fog over the crater and it was splendidly illuminated by the glare from the fires below.”

The Volcano House has captured the imagination of visitors for generations. Visitors like Mark Twain, the American author who wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and also scaled the summit of Kilauea during an eruption. Adventurers, artists and scientists continue to be fascinated by the land where the Volcano House rests.

From its humble origins as the site of a one-room grass shelter to its current status as a world-class travel destination, the Volcano House has a unique history as Hawaii’s oldest hotel. The current hotel was completed in November 1941, and while additions and changes have been made to the main hotel over the years, the rich history of its origin, deeply-rooted sense of place, and island hospitality will carry the hotel into the future.

Volcano House History

Photo Courtesy of NPS and the Hawaiian Historical Society

Timeline: Through the Centuries

1846: The original Volcano House is built: a simple, one-room shelter made of grass and native Ohia wood poles.

1866: A four-bedroom wooden frame structure replaces the original hotel, housing notable guests including Mark Twain, who recounted his stay in Roughing It: “Neat, roomy, well furnished and a well kept hotel. The surprise of finding a good hotel at such an outlandish spot startled me, considerably more than the volcano did.”

1904: George “Uncle George” Lycurgus purchases an interest in the Volcano House Company and manages the Volcano House until 1921 when he sells his interest. He subsequently regains the hotel in 1932 and remains the manager until his death in 1960. He was known as the dean of Hawaiian hospitality and died at age 94 after 45 years of direct involvement with the Volcano House.

1940: A fire destroys the entire hotel.

1941: After the fire, Volcano House is rebuilt southwest of the original site as a 24-room wood and stone structure.

1949: The Ohia Wing, the original National Park Service headquarters built in 1932, is added to the hotel (later converted for NPS use in 2010).

1953: A new eight-room wing is added, expanding the hotel’s visitor capacity.

2010: The Volcano House concession contract ends and the NPS makes significant health and safety upgrades to the building.

2012: Major rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Volcano House and Namakanipaio Cabins and Campground is underway. The cabins at Namakanipaio campground reopen in August 2012 while the Volcano House is set for a grand reopening in 2013.

2013: Crater View Rooms become available in March.